What to expect as developers gather for Google I/O

Google often seems to be moving in so many directions at the same time, it’s hard to know what exactly the company is any more.

Self-driving cars. Medical contact lenses. Smarthome gadgets. Google Glass. Social networking. Mobile platform. Interactive television. And, oh yeah, that search thing.

But starting Wednesday morning, when its annual Google I/O developer’s conference kicks off, the company will do its best to show how these far-flung products are connected. And how they will become even more connected over time.

“I expect a frenetic pace of new announcements across a number of market segments - mobile, cloud infrastructure, wearables, software services, home automation, and a dollop of just over-the-horizon craziness with robots, self-driving cars, and Internet-enabled satellites,” Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said in a note to clients. “Under it all I expect the message to developers will be ‘this is all linked, and there is an end-to-end vision of how apps and software come together with the phone, the cloud, and the physical world around us. It’s our ecosystem you want to bet on, because it’s larger, extends further, and it’s more open.’”


Except for the open part, that’s pretty much the same message everyone is pushing these days. It’s what Apple said at its Worldwide Developers Conference in early June. And it’s what Amazon was trying to say when it unveiled its first smartphone last week. Now that many people have a house full (or an office full, or a car full) of connected gadgets, what else can they do with them?

And yet, Google’s goal is to demonstrate that across that portfolio of products and services, it remains the one to beat.

“Google will try to project itself to be ahead of Apple in every aspect of innovation,” Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research, wrote in a note to clients.

The announcement that may catch the attention of consumers the most is the expected debut of the first Google smartwatches. Earlier this year, Google rolled out a software development kit that could be used to make Android-based smartwatches. Now, there are reports that Samsung and Lenovo are going to show off their new wrist-worn devices, based on Android.


The adoption of “Android Wear” will be closely monitored because rumors are escalating that Apple will (at last!) release its own smartwatch sometime this fall. Though hard details of these gadgets are scarce, in the case of both Apple and Google, it’s expected that developers may eventually want to use both to connect with their respective smartphones, but all as a controller for a wide range of other wearables and smarthome devices.

That could be particularly timely for Google, which earlier this year bought Nest, the company that made the Internet-connected thermostats.

Speaking of Android, BloombergBusinessweek says Google will announce the next version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system, rather than waiting until its typical fall release date.

And Google may also provide some updates on its sporadic television efforts. There have been rumors that it’s working on a revamp of its interactive TV project with something called Android TV. The company still sells a more limited product called Chromecast, a small attachment that allows you to beam content from your smartphone or tablet to your TV.


What else? Check back here later Wednesday morning to find when the Los Angeles Times will be liveblogging the keynote.